Tuesday, October 31, 2006
POLYMORPH – Prerequisites – Character must be represented by more than one distinct power dial. At least one of these power dials must have the power Shape Change on it, OR, at least two different power dials representing this character must (1) show different movement types (boot, wing, dolphin) and/or (2) show different damage types (fist, giant).
COST: Pay the cost of the most expensive figure, then average the costs of all additional figures representing this character for this game. If only one additional figure is used, pay half that figure’s cost.
Place one figure representing this character in the starting area at the beginning of this game. Whenever the figure in the game has its dial turned in either direction, turn all off board figures representing this character the same number of clicks in the same direction (do not advance any figure past its starting click into KO slots). At any time during subsequent turns of the game, as a free action, player may switch one of the off-board figures representing the character for the figure in the game. Off-board figures may not be placed on the board if KO slots are showing on their dials.
WARP IN: Prerequisite -- Phasing/Teleport Cost: 25 points. This character is not placed on the board at the start of play in the normal starting area. Instead, this character's controller chooses any open square on the board during any turn after the first. Roll 1 d6. 1-2 Figure is placed on board in any open square. Give figure an action token, it may take no further action that turn. 3-4 Figure is placed on board in any open square. This is a free action, but figure may take no non-free actions for rest of turn. 5-6 Figure is placed on board in any open square. This is a free action, and figure may take any normal action for normal cost. Once this has been done, remove WARP IN from game. Only one instance of WARP IN may be played per character per game.
If character with WARP IN is a Transporter, or has the Passenger Feat Card, it may carry one other friendly figure with it into the game. This friendly figure also remains off the game board with WARP IN figure until they are both brought into the game simultaneously.
SACRIFICE PLAY: Prerequisite: Characters must have same Team Ability. COST: 5 points per character. Choose more than one character with same Team Ability. When two or more such characters are adjacent, and one of these characters is KOed, it instead remains on its final slot before being KOed. Choose an adjacent character also using this Feat Card and KO that character instead.
RESCUSCITATE/REVIVE: COST: 10 points Choose a character. When this character is KOed, do not award victory points. Place three action tokens on this character. Opponent who KOed this character may remove one action token at the start of his/her turn. When KOed character has no further action tokens, remove character from board and award victory points. While KOed character remains on board, it may be Healed or Regenerated as normal. Automatic Regeneration will not work while a figure is KOed. If character is Healed or Regenerated, reduce number of action tokens on it to 1.
I've also modified the Power Cosmic TA and my own redefinitions for Fortitude and Repulsor Shield. Power Cosmic now protects from ranged Outwit, but adjacent Outwitters can make an attack roll to counter a power. Fortitude and Repulsor Shield now reduce Exploit Weakness and Psychic Blast damage, respectively, to 1.
These last few changes will be made necessary when Supernova comes out and we have a at least two more Power Cosmic figures running around with Impervious or Invulnerability in the game. Given that Impervious reduces damage by 4 under my rules, and Invulnerability reduces it by 3, if I'd left the rules as they were, an Impervious Power Cosmic figure could take Fortitude and Repulsor Shield and then, basically, only figures capable of dishing out 5 damage could possibly hurt it. As it is, that's still true, but characters with penetrating powers will be able to get a click through if they hit, and if an Outwitter really wants to go stand adjacent to something that godlike and make an attack roll, there's a chance it could somehow get rid of a damage abatement power for a turn, too.
Hi, I'm amazed to see you spend so much time on my list (as I find my work wholly undeserving of such attention). However, I've always known creating lists of this nature is a combustible enterprise, especially when discussing comic book characters. I read your initial response, perused this one as well, and found them both pretty hilarious. I hope none of this turned you off of my serious work in reviewing comics, I’m not sure if you’ve read any of them but in doing so you might see that when I write those Top Ten’s I’m being silly on purpose.
I must say that my article was satire, as I obviously have no wish to say anything definitive (or anything at all really) about manliness, superheroes, or anything in between. My article prefaces with this statement. I should also note that I write these articles with a specific eye towards getting people riled up. I knew putting Batman at 10 would be shocking—thus encapsulating the whole reason I did it. I also tried to capture a sense of ‘manliness’ that Maddox uses that is a ridiculous concept to be celebrated, yet I did for comedic effect. Any and all lists such as these are for fun, I’m never serious when I write them, so understand that I take liberties with the characters often. That’s all; hope you keep reading our little site. May I suggest my other list: the Top Ten Un-Manliest Superheroes. I’m sure you’ll find it as disagreeable as the first.
Thanks for stopping by.
I had more -- lots more -- but, never mind. I appreciate all my comments, even the condescending ones from alleged writers who feel that "I was only kidding" is an excuse for any offense against language and/or art (such as, for example, creating a list of 'superheroes' when one obviously has no clear idea exactly what a 'superhero' may be, or redefining the word 'manly' repeatedly in the course of an article until said word becomes little more than an arbitrary string of letters one is using to evoke limbic responses in one's audience).
Uh... okay, yeah, that was pretty much what I wanted to say.
I appreciate the link to your other articles; I may read them, but probably not today, as this is my day off and I have a great deal of stuff on the list for it.
But, again, thanks for stopping by. Always good to know other people do ego searches, too.
So, you know, I found that on the blog this morning, under the My Hero entry.
As to that list of stuff I want to get done today --
Well, the beef stew for dinner is in the crock pot simmering away. Here's what I learned doing that -- peeling veggies and chopping them up is a lot harder than SuperFiancee, or any of those inferior wenches on the Cooking Channel like Rachel Rae or Paula Dean or that one drunk blonde, make it look. Wow! Plus, your hands totally smell like onions when you're done.
Now, I need to get the following done today, I hope, before the kids all get home from school and domestic life kicks into high gear once more --
First, my HeroClix House Rules need to be updated. Both Mike Norton and Tony Collette have signed off on the fly-by taxi rules, so they'll get added in. Neither of them mentioned the idea of auto-knockback, and having through it through further, I think WizKids does an okay job already having knockback only occur on doubles. What I will do, though, is make it a further modifier for Super Strength -- take close combat damage from a fig with Super Strength, you take Knockback, too. "Can you fly, Bobby?" You can if Superman punches you in the mouth! BAM!
I'll probably add in some all new, all different Feats, too, like Polymorph, Warp In, and a new one I came up with in a comment thread recently, Sacrifice Play.
I've also been thinking of eliminating WK's long ago mod to how damage is done to multiple targets. Originally, a fig could do full damage to multiple targets with a ranged attack; then they changed that, and now you have to divide damage between targers. I wasn't wild about that when I first heard about it, but grumbled and rolled with it. The more I think about it, though, the less sense it makes -- I mean, seriously, how is that ranged weapons do less damage when fired at more than one target? Do the bullets/arrows/energy bolts get lighter? It's stupid. So I'll probably redo that, too.
That's House Rules stuff. I'm also, in abject emulation of Mike Norton's example, working on a new blog that will just be for my 'occasional firebrand dip into politics', as Opus once put it. And I have to tinker with the format over there, and maybe even whack together some kind of initial article, and then do a group email to the Privileged Few advising them of the link.
In the meantime, SuperFiancee has an awesome Hallowe'en post up, with many adorable pictures of the SuperKids. Once again, you go there, you immediately grasp on the most basic and visceral level how I am the luckiest man in the universe, you are eaten alive with envy, and life is good. Initiate this sequence now.
And Happy Hallowe'en!
Friday, October 27, 2006
So, here are some mods I'm strongly considering for my House Rules:
Taxiing character must be able to move to an unoccupied square adjacent to target character within their normal movement for the turn.
If a taxi character is attempting to taxi a non-adjacent friendly character, both the taxiing character and the non-adjacent friendly character will immediately take one click of damage when they become adjacent to each other during the taxiing character’s movement. This damage may be reduced normally but not transferred or evaded. The taxiing character may then carry the now adjacent friendly character for the remainder of its movement. It must set the carried character down as per taxi or transporter rules, whichever applies.
If a taxi character is attempting to taxi an opposing character, a successful attack roll must be made against the target opposing character as the two characters become adjacent. If this attack is successful, both the taxiing character and the now adjacent opposing character will immediately take one click of damage. This damage may be reduced normally but not transferred or evaded. The opposing character may then be carried by the taxiing character for the remainder of the taxiing character’s movement. The taxiing character must set the carried character down as per normal taxi or transporter rules, whichever applies.
If this attack to taxi is unsuccessful, the opposing character may make a close combat attack on the adjacent taxi character which unsuccessfully attacked it, as a free action.
Basically, this is to allow things like, a character is being beat down by enemies, and a member of his or her team comes flying in and snatches them away from the action on the wing. This happens often in comics, but under normal HeroClix rules, you'll never see it in a game. Similarly, you occasionally see a character grabbing up an enemy character and carrying them out of the thick of the fight and leaving them in some inopportune place, if for no other reason than to get them out of the way for few seconds. This is, again, impossible under normal HeroClix rules, where you simply can't grab and move an opposing character at all, but I'd like to make it possible under my House Rules.
My House Rules already allow a taxiing character to Soar and drop a character they are carrying, so this will open that option up as an attack on an opponent, as well.
Any successful attack as above that results from a natural doubles being rolled on the dice does knockback equivalent to the full damage taken by the target character, plus 1.
In superhero comics, when hard hitting characters smack each other, the one that gets hit generally gets knocked through the air, smashed through walls, hurled into the people standing behind them, etc. HeroClix normal rules only has knockback happen when you roll doubles, but in point of fact, it happens much more often than that in comics. As my House Rules allow every figure to move and attack, this won't be all that onerous -- if Mr. Hyde knocks Batman back three squares, the Cobra can just move three more and smack Batman again -- so I don't mind making this change.
As always, though, I actively seek the feedback of the few people reading this who actually play HeroClix.
I'm also working on a few home made feats -- POLYMORPH, that long heralded add on which will allow different figures of the same character to be swapped in and out of games as a free action (when the character can shapeshift, or change size, or something). That one's specific definition is tasking me, but I'll work it out. Another I'm thinking of is PHASE IN, whereby a Phase/Teleport character would be held off the board until his player wanted to put him or her into play, at which point, the character could be put down anywhere on the board. I need to think about that one further, too... but it's certainly something that, say, Kang should be able to do.
Okay. Move along. Nothing to see here.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Gaze at the power and the glory of the Silver Centurion Iron Man. Stand amazed at the faux metallic gleaming of the painted plastic. Regard with awe the superlative stats on the dial. An 11 might not seem like much for a fighting machine like the Armored Avenger, but Seth's obvious strategy of lowering my expectations by giving every figure for the last three sets a top attack value of 9 has apparently worked on me; I see a 10 AV these days and I swoon to the floor in an overoxygenated rapture. A single click of 11? Good Lord, I'm in a bliss-coma. And the powers. Oh, the sweet, sweet powers. Still no Super Strength, yes, I know, and it tasks me, it does, because Iron Man SHOULD be able to pick up a dumpster and bang-shang-a-lang nearly anyone right upside their stupid haid with it, yes he should. But all that Incapacitate -- oh my. And the switch over to Energy Explosion halfway down the dial? Oh my. The four clicks of Outwit? Oh my my.
This... this may be the finest Iron Man ever rendered in HeroClix form.
But what makes him rock so hard isn't evident in the graphic representation of his dial, because for some reason, WizKids just can't seem to post multiple targets correctly. Looking at the Iron Man I snatched up at a New Kids Night event last evening, you see a wonderful difference between WK's grid and his actual dial -- two, count them, two lightning bolts next to the little 8 that indicates his range.
It's transformative. Suddenly, a merely decent dial becomes an Artie Simek sound effect -- KA-BA-BOOOOOM!!!! It's the difference between impulse engines and warp speed, between "a few shots, sahr -- not enough against tharrh shielllds" to "Aye, Cap'n, we'll blow the mofos right the fuck out of space, SIR". It's the way things ought to be. It's everything for everyone. It's... da BOMB, baby.
But, Highlander, you importune me, giving me the puppy dog eyes, I don't, I mustn't, I can't understand. Why is two targets so much better than one? What difference can it possibly make? And, for the love of God, why am I even reading this nonsense if I'm not Mike Norton?
As to the last, no one can answer that but you, true believer. But as to the first -- well, attend closely, my old:
Posit with me that the West Coast Avengers, in little plastic figure form, find themselves confronting the evil of Diablo, the Mole Man, the Mad Thinker, his Awesome Android, and, just for kicks, Blastaar, King of the Negative Zone. Mole Man has brought along a few little Moloids to boss around, because, you know, it makes him feel like a reeeeeeal big man, oh yes it does. In the swirling chaos that has erupted since the initiation of hostilities, poor Mockingbird finds herself beset by the ever belligerent Blastaar on the one side, base to base with her and prepared to thump her senseless with his massively mesomorphic mitts, and Diablo on the other, who is just about to splash some sort of nefarious goop on her that will harm her grievously this turn and poison her appallingly the next. Who needs that? Not you, not I, not even a former SHIELD agent who should, by rights, be dead. But she is helpless, helpless, a mere chickie poo with a couple o' sticks against the onslaught of awesome evil that is the ruler of an entire anti-matter universe and a thousand year old immortal alchemist with an attitude.
Enter Iron Man, all jets ablaze! He'll have none of this misognystic mischief; the baddies mess with a fellow Avenger over Tony Stark's armor clad corpse. His first three slots brimming with Running Shot, the Golden Avenger (in, I grant you, silver and red armor at the moment) goes blasting in, boot jets blaring, dealing Incapacition with either hand. KA ZOW! A stunning bolt of repulsor energy goes hurtling at the Mole Man's hapless head! BA-KOW! A furious flare flies frantically at Diablo's sneering mustachios! Assuming both hit, another action token is placed on both villain's bases, and if they already had one there, they're pushed! A click of damage for the cretins, if you please, garcon. (Actually, Diablo may well have Willpower, in which case, he'd be spared that click of damage, but still would be unable to take any action for the following round. And this version of Iron Man has Outwit on his opening click, too, so if he's as smart as he should be, he'll get rid of Diablo's Willpower before he lowers the boom.)
But, it gets better. Slap a Stunning Blow feat card on this Iron Man and in addition to those extra action tokens, suddenly he's got a full 4 clicks of damage to divide between his two targets. Take that, monkey men -- an extra action token, paralysis for the following turn, a click of damage from pushing, and perhaps another 1 to 4 clicks, depending on the iron whim of Tony Stark, as a little lagniappe.
Still not satisfied? Hoo boy, tough room. Okay, throw an Armor Piercing on him. In combination with the Stunning Blow it makes sure at least one click of damage from every successful Incapacitation attack goes through no matter how tough his target may be, and later on, when he's flinging around Energy Explosion, it will potentially multiply that one click of damage across any enemies that may be adjacent to Iron Man's target. HOO-ha! Take that, you dirty rats!
Under my House Rules, he gets even sweeter -- Running Shot works better, and his Outwit can hit two targets when done at range (although you have to make a successful attack roll, and the range is more limited), and I'm even thinking about getting rid of WK's 'divide up ranged damage between targets' rule, just because it sucks. If I do that, o mama! Four clicks of damage and an Incapacitation token to two different targets -- suh-WEET.
And it's all due to my beloved SuperFiancee and the ever affable Orto. The latter supplied the invaluable info on when/where a New Guy Night was to be found hereabouts, the former drove me there, after we checked out the grand opening of a library across the river in Indy that SuperFiancee had overseen much of the restoration on. In the ensuing clix battle, SuperFiancee's Teen Titans pretty much beat the snot out of my HIVE group (allegedly bolstered somewhat by Deathstroke the Terminator, but he ain't such a much once Terra and Speedy tool up on him a little), which was okay with me, since I was just in it for the Iron Man.
Even better, not only did we get one Iron Man for the New Guy (SuperFiancee) we actually got one each, so I have two! Any of my few readers who'd like one, let me know quickly, as I'll most likely post it as trade fodder on the WK site pretty quick. Say, within a week or so. Otherwise, I'll assume I can do with it as I like.
In addition, I also picked up a copy of the 3/4s size Sinister map, showing a cell block. We actually did the clix battle on that map, and I can't say I think much of it -- there is, basically, only one hallway connecting either side of the map, so you end up fighting there, or close to there, with very little room for tactics or strategies. It's the sort of map where a strong Phasing/Teleport team would clean up, especially under my House Rules which allow all figs to move and attack on the same turn.
So, all hail SuperFiancee and Mike Norton! We who have collected loot salute them!
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Once upon a time, I had an email from S.M. Stirling explaining precisely what it was that had changed in how physics worked in his The Fire Dies/The Protector's War/A Meeting At Corvallis trilogy. I wish I had it, so I could quote it. Even if I did, though, I still wouldn't really understand it, because when it comes to physics, well, the Late Great Jeff Webb was the science genius on this superteam. My super power is all about spelling, word choice, and sentence construction.
But it's something to do with the speed of various thermodynamic reactions and electromagnetic phenomena being slowed down to a point where stuff that explodes won't explode anymore, and electricity won't flow the same way, either. The end result: pretty much all modern technology stops working, for reasons no one understands.
In the world Stirling describes in the three books I've already cited above, this leads to a massive global dieback of the human race as our modern civilization, with its enormous technology driven carrying capacities for huge centralized populations, crashes and burns in a spectacular fashion. Cities become mass graves, then abandoned ruins, and then, for the most part, open air mines that the surviving tribes ransack for raw material. The survivors themselves -- far less than one percent of the pre-Event civilization -- organize themselves in eccentric fashions largely dictated by the strongest personalities of the alpha-folks who organize their communities.
One the one hand, you've got the Bearkillers, a more or less free community run by an informal warrior-nobility that anyone with sufficient skill can join, ruled by their particular alpha-male, Lord Bear, otherwise known as ex-Marine and former bush pilot Michael Havel. Bearkiller society is largely deranged towards a Tolkien mythological imprint by the presence of young Astrid Larsen among them, who is what we would call nowadays a major league geek girl -- to the point of actual estrangement from reality, except, in the post-Event world, reality is largely what you make it.
Allied with the Bearkillers you have the deeply fucking weird Clan MacKenzie, organized around the leadership of one-time half assed Wiccan and medieval reenactor Juniper MacKenzie. Despite the nuttiness of their pagan beliefs and Scottish wardrobe choices, the Clan MacKenzie fields some of the deadliest archer formations in the post-Event world, which means you laugh at their stupid graven idols and the silly little plaid skirts their menfolk wear from at least 600 yards away, hopefully with the wind blowing strongly in their direction, at that.
On the other side of the viciously spiked portcullis is the Portland Protective Association, organized by former history professor and part time Society for Creative Anachronism lunatic Norman Arminger, who styles himself the Protector and Warlord of Portland. He's a bad, bad man, who organizes what's left of the organized crime crews, street gangs, and those really annoying guys in the SCA who always wished they could fight with actual weapons, into a huge medieval style army under (literally) the Eye of Sauron, the symbol he chooses for his new nation's flag.
Then, trying desperately to stay neutral in the coming conflict, you have the city-state of Corvallis, run by a Faculty Senate comprised of surviving professors and administrators from a large pre-Event agricultural university. Yeah. They got hopes.
How S.M. Stirling turns out so many extremely readable, fabulously researched fantasy novels in such short order I will never understand. Yeah, he churns out the occasional turdburger -- what I call a 'house payment' book -- especially when he's working in someone else's franchise, as with that endless David Drake Belisarius re-enactment he did the text for a while back, or his various TERMINATOR books. But when he's working within his own conceptual frameworks, he nearly always delivers the goods (I say 'nearly always' because DRAKON was pretty much crap, although, as always, it was crap that once you started reading it, you found it nearly impossible to put down until you'd finished it, due to Stirling's amazingly readable writing style).
With A MEETING AT CORVALLIS, he's finished the spin off trilogy to his preceding ISLANDER trio with a consistent level of excellence even surpassing those three preceding volumes. His usual fabulous level of detail goes hand in mailed gauntlet with his always enthralling characterizations, and, well, if you like fantasy adventure with some military overtones, I can't recommend Stirling's work enough.
About MEETING specifically, I will say one thing -- he managed to surprise me with the ending, which is a rare and enjoyable event for someone who reads as much, and as analytically, as I do. This is, I suppose, a long delayed dividend from Stirling's dreadful resolution to his Draka trilogy; by letting the bad guys win there, he created an atmosphere in which I simply couldn't be sure how he would resolve the conflict in this particular trilogy. I'd still much rather he'd had the Draka get crushed as they so richly deserved at the end of THE STONE DOGS, but at least that book's truly disappointing resolution can now be seen to have had a slight silver lining here, a decade or two further down the line.
One aside, though -- as I say, I can't remember what the pivotal change in the laws of physics that powers this series was, and I wouldn't understand it, either. But I can't see how, at the moment, something that slows down the speed with which energy transfers from one state to another would have any effect on, say, lighter than air craft, or the chemistry of creating poison gases. Were I an evil sonofabitch like Norman Arminger, with a huge, devoted following of murderous crazies behind me and an even huger force of slave labor I could set to any project I chose, I suspect I'd have foregone 13th Century European military maneuvers in favor of trying to reproduce the phosgene gas and dirigible delivery systems of World War I.
Of course, that's mostly just my memories of Niven and Pournelle's LUCIFER'S HAMMER talking, but still, I'd think that a lighter than air armada would lead to inevitable military victory even without the poison gas armament -- being able to drop napalm (which does work in the books) from high above the battlefield should be a nearly insuperable advantage.
Leaving all that aside, though, A MEETING AT CORVALLIS is an excellent resolution to an excellent trilogy. And once again, mad props and sincere thanks to S.M. Stirling for comping me a copy.
A single field goal put Tampa Bay six points ahead of Philadelphia with less than three minutes on the clock, and all Tampa Bay's defense had to do was stand up and keep Donovan McNabb & Crew out of the end zone one last time. But as the announcer put it a few minutes later, "They're just too good". McNabb to Westbrook in the flat, after being set back 15 yards on a penalty, and Westbrook broke tackles and evaded tacklers for a long rambling 50 yard run into the end zone -- or, rather, to the one yard line, where he deliberately slowed to a walk simply to taunt the team he'd obviously just managed to deal a crushing defeat to.
The extra point put the Eagles up by 1 with 30 seconds left on the clock. Given how generally crappy Tampa's offense had played until then, the Philadelphia fans must have felt like they'd just gotten a phone call from the future with next week's winning Lotto numbers. Tampa picked up a single first down and then, with 4 seconds left, had to try to kick a 61 yard field goal. If you don't know what the word 'futility' means, look it up in the dictionary and you'll see syn: making a 61 yard field goad. I was ready to leave in disgust. We were watching the game in a sports bar and due to the background noise really couldn't hear anything. SuperFiancee was sitting next to me, more tense than I was, because she's a relative novice to football and didn't realize just how foolish it was to hang any hope on a 61 yard field goal attempt --
and I'm staring at the screen, and saying to her "Did he make it? Did he MAKE it?"
And he did. Matt Bryant is my hero. And I believe I speak for every football fan in the Tampa Bay area when I say that, too.
Making it even better, Carolina has already lost today and Atlanta just missed a tie breaking field goal, sending their game into OT. If the Steelers can pull it out, this will have been a very good Sunday for the Bucs.
It's hard to keep hoping for much from the Bucs, though, as they're very erratic. The offense did very little this game; the defense got both of Tampa's touchdowns for them early, but fell down when it counted late. Bruce Gradkowski specifically looked very unstable; several times he had receivers open deep down the field, and threw the football nowhere near them. He wasn't intercepted, which is always nice, and Cadillac Williams had a pretty good game, which is nicer. Still, we need Gradkowski to crank up his performance levels several notches, and we need our defense to be able to finish a game out.
ADDENDUM: Atlanta won, fuck them eternally. On a field goal, too. Must be something in the NFC South's water.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Over at the Poor Man, the Editors are still being dicks.
In less exasperating matters, I must presume John Rogers has abandoned the field to me after my last comment kicked his ass entirely. A few of his toadies have posted in a rather surly, petulant fashion as to the usual nonsense -- "couldn't even read your entire rant", i.e., that old dimwit standby 'I have no attention span and somehow that's your fault' -- but Rogers seems to be treating his loyal minions in much the same way as Bush I treated the entire Iraqi civilian population after he urged them to rise up against Saddam Hussein, and they did. (Um... wait. In that analogy, I'm Saddam Hussein. Let me rethink this...)
Anyway, yet another of those stumbling ineptly to Rogers' unconditional support can't quite grope his way to a correct spelling of 'competent'. A third clears this relatively low hurdle, but... well, I'll let his comment speak for itself:
Rogers is a competent liquor jockey. Much like Muhammad Ali was a fine boxer or Arnold palmer was a good putter. Mozart could kind of play the piano. Bobby Orr sure could skate…should I go on? I think not.
Hey, DJ. If you're going to leave comments like that in regard to the guy who wrote the CATWOMAN movie, you really should just change your name to BJ and break out the kneepads. I mean, what the hell. Just be up front about it. (And of course, it goes without saying, when I speak of the rampant sycophancy I perceive in the Kung Fu Monkey comment threads, I'm completely clueless. There's no such thing. It's just me, and my obvious rage, and there's no validity to my observations at all.)
I know, I know, I'm being very pissy today. I had a bad day at work yesterday, I'm having another one today, and I'm taking it out on a group of low self esteem idiots who kiss another low self esteem idiot's ass over at that particular low self esteem idiot's blog. Why should this annoy me? Why is it any of my business? Idiots get their asses kissed every minute of every day. As far as that goes, our current Administration is built almost entirely on that principle.
I don't know. I'm usually more enlightened than this. I usually just try to appreciate the good stuff life throws my way -- and there's been a lot of good stuff this last year and a half, I frankly admit it -- and ignore the stupidity (although, truth be told, we've all put up with a great deal of stupidity the last six years or so, too). But I'm frustrated right now, and it's certainly not anything to do with John Rogers or his posse of pucker ups, but, still, I guess they're just who's in the barrel right now.
But, since they are, let's return one more time to our much storied comment thread over on Kung Fu Monkey. Yes, yes, two days later, John Rogers has still not troubled himself to provide further illumination as to my obvious emotional dysfunctions, his fabulous talent and/or articulation, or the number of relationships my poor attitude must have destroyed over the course of my life. But someone else is picking up his slack:
It's worth a brief side observation, I think, to note that the guy judging my pseud of 'imperius rectum' as unfunny has chosen for himself the startlingly witty cognomen of 'dr. x'. More on point, though, is the remarkable cogency with which he compares my comment in Rogers' threads, meant to be a joke, which caused Rogers to come completely unglued, with the now infamous debacle betwixt me and my old buddy Slappy, which I started with a professional observation as to how unprofessionally derivative the bulk of ASTRO CITY characters, settings, plots, and stories seemed to be, which caused Slappy to come completely unglued, lo these many years agone.
I presume Dr. X has fired a bullseye all unwitting. Nonetheless, it does bring up a recurrent trope I've noticed for quite a long time here on the Internet, and that I'd now like to take a few moments to discuss -- how, namely, out h'yar on the Web, to his or her fans, A Professional Creator Can Do No Wrong.
These two specific instances, both of which involve me, a mere nobody, illustrate the point well. Let's look at the exchange with Rogers. A stranger posts a comment that is, I'm sorry, but to my perceptions, pretty obviously a joke -- and let's remember (because Rogers never lets his audience forget it) the guy the comment was directed at is a professional comedian. He did stand up for ten years. Hard to believe he simply cannot understand that a completely over the top, frothing at the mouth, utterly insane post, laden with self conscious geek references and phonetic spelling, for the love of jebus, which appears under the name 'imperius rectum', and which closes with the paragraph 'Christ. Christ. Christ. The shit you see on Sunday when you don't wear a hat.' was meant to be a joke.
And yet, he didn't. He took the post absolutely at face value, and was so enraged that anyone in his comment threads would dare to address him in such a fashion that he went totally mental, spending over three hundred words remonstrating with, again, a complete stranger, in the most hysterically, neurotically defensive and blustering fashion... all of this, because someone he doesn't know said something he doesn't like.
Bear in mind, this is the first time he's bothered to respond to anyone in this comment thread. My comment is the eighth one down. The first seven commenters asked him direct questions, praised him, posted their own thoughtful responses -- and they got zip. And I'm a vet of the Kung Fu Monkey comment threads; that ain't hardly unusual. As a general rule, all Rogers' entries draw direct questions, fulsome praise, and reasonably thoughtful responses... and he generally either ignores them, or, at most, throws in a sentence or two, before his busy, busy life reclaims his attention once again and takes him away from the mere insignificance that his his blogging audience.
But let someone say something he assumes is negative, and out come the howitzers. Pity all they can do is 'pop', but, well, there you are.
So I respond further, essentially pointing all this out, and saying he's being rather a baby. This leads to yet another several hundred word screed on his part. Again, he's still ignoring everyone else in his comment threads. He's absolutely determined to batter me back down into the primordial ooze from which I have impertinently arisen, so much so that he's now talking about my state of emotion (which he cannot know) and observing in regard to how many of my relationships my lack of self control must have destroyed, over the years. And, while doing this, he also notes that, once his comment threads grow past a certain length he doesn't even bother to read them any more.
In other words, he's dropped his pants and showed his ass to a pretty spectacular degree, while admitting that frankly, he just doesn't give a damn about the vast majority of his audience, or at least, those who bother to comment on his work.
And, amazingly, I'm the asshole here.
So, let's see: I made a joke, on a professional comedian's blog. He took this joke, posted by someone he doesn't know and has never met, as a personal attack, and posted several hundred words defending himself from and attacking a stranger for an attack that didn't exist. I responded, earning myself another even longer and crazier response, this one laden with personal insults and the admission that he really just couldn't care less about the people who read his blog or what they have to say about his work -- which is clearly true, unless they say something that annoys him.
I respond again, and he sinks into sulky silence, then quickly tosses up another couple of hasty, meaningless posts to roll the whole thing down the page so, hopefully, his regular readers will forget about the entire shabby affair.
And yet, I'm a 'troll', I'm 'unfunny', I'm 'boring the shit out of' people, and my posts are 'a desperately vindicative [sic], bitter, and above all absurdly lengthy rant'... the last of which especially amuses me, since Rogers' posts in the comment thread are longer than mine.
Rogers, on the other hand, is 'quite witty and quite articulate'. He's the blogging/comic book scripting/screenwriting/stand up comic equivalent of Muhammed Ali, Arnold Palmer, Mozart, and Bobby Orr rolled into one. And, last but not least, he's yet another poor, sad, beleaguered victim of a vicious, unprovoked Internet attack... just like Kurt Busiek.
As to the Kurt thing, well, revisiting that just briefly, and admitting that nobody but he, I, and maybe his wife know just how much of his scurrilous personal attacks on me were complete and utter bullshit (here's a hint: very nearly every frickin' syllable), still, there's the obvious fact that I dropped into an ASTRO CITY comment thread and stated that it seemed to me that most of what I'd seen published in ASTRO CITY had actually been swiped from many other sources, nearly all of whom had presented the material originally in a superior fashion. That's a professional criticism (and, if you've read any ASTRO CITY and know anything about the superhero comics genre, an absolutely valid one).
Leaving aside any question as to whether or not what Kurt said to me in response had any truth in it at all (it didn't, but you don't know that, so never mind), there remains the clear and irrefutable fact that, in response to a professional criticism, Kurt launched a vicious personal attack, posting a great deal of entirely personal nonsense that had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on whether or not virtually every word balloon, caption, sound effect, title, panel, and page of ASTRO CITY had been stolen from someone better.
That's obvious and inarguable, and yet, nobody even notices it. I'm Kurt Busiek's psycho stalker, and Kurt is, you know, everybody's favorite writer 'cuz they all just love The Confessor so much.
It's pointless to rail against this. Apparently, when one becomes a professional in any creative field, and acquires fans of one's work, one also attains utter infallibility. All actions the professional creator takes are above reproach; all detractors the creator may have, reprehensible and psychotic.
I can only look forward to a time when I, too, am a recognized and successful professional at something, however crappy and/or blatantly derivative my actual creative product may be, and to my fans, I can do no wrong, and cheerfully make the same sort of ass of myself as I so often do now, and have others praise me as a genius for it.
One final note: I'm actually pretty happy with how things have turned out here. Rogers does indeed incessantly praise himself as a professional funny man, relentlessly giving himself airs as this fabulous lettersmith who deploys words and phrases the way Doc Holliday and/or Wild Bill Hickock shoot shit off fence posts. In his mouth and under his fingers (it says there) the English language is a finely tuned instrument he can use to create entire soaring, scintillant sonatas with the casual ease shown by lesser men spreading peanut butter on bread.
His rhythm is matchless, his word choice without peer, his delivery devastating, his put downs, peerless. He's relentless, brilliant, cunning, a tornado of text, a master of mockery. If God Himself rose to heckle John Rogers from the peanut gallery, Rogers would, with a half dozen razor sharp words, send poor ancient Adonai reeling and weeping into the parking lot, bearded but majestic head in His hoary old hands.
And I shut the motherfucker down.
I ain't such a much. I'm not published. Seven novels, forty or so short stories, a dozen or so comics precis', millions of words on my various blogs and web pages over the years... still, I can't get anyone to read my shit. I'm lucky if I get six comments in a frickin' thread, and I work ten hour shifts in a christly call center to pay my family's bills. But I drove John Rogers to the brink of frickin' madness with 74 nonsense words, and when he pulled his irons on me, I blew them the fuck out of his hands and sent him crying into the saloon.
Maybe my overthruster isn't such shit, after all.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
This leads me to muse somewhat on relationships, and blogging, and stuff like that. Bear with me. Or don't. It's not like I charge admission here or anything. Although you know I would if I could.
Essentially (in my observation, anyway) every voluntary relationship we continue to involve ourselves in is an attention transaction. The deal basically boils down to a contract, and the contract reads thusly – “I will provide you with desirable attention for your bullshit, if you will provide me in return with desirable attention for my bullshit”. This varies in degree or intensity, depending on whether or not one is talking about one’s parent, or sibling, or best friend, or life partner, or casual acquaintance at work or from public transportation… but boiled down to the most basic level, this is what every single relationship we choose to maintain is. You pay the kind of attention I want to me, I’ll pay the kind of attention you want to you.
Certain types of relationships can intensify this. Friendship, for example, when it’s real and it means something, occasionally has to be about not just giving our attention-partner what they want, but what they need. The current buzz word for this, when it happens, is ‘intervention’, and none of us particularly like it. But that’s rare. For the most part, it all comes down to a constant negotiation – this is the kind of attention I want from you, and this is the kind of attention I’m prepared to provide to you back in exchange for it.
I am in no way trying to denigrate human relationships by presenting this simple abstraction. I’m just trying to clarify how it seems to me that pretty much all voluntary relationships actually work. I believe that when we get some understanding of what is actually going on in our lives, it can be helpful to us, which is why I struggle to grasp these things. I do understand that the words ‘attention’ and ‘contract’ and ‘transaction’ have come to be associated with primarily negative indices in our current cultural context, but, nonetheless, these are the precise words that apply. Or so I believe.
A healthy relationship is one in which both people involved are living up to the contract. Both clearly understand the kinds of attention they want, and the kinds of attention they will get in exchange for it from each other, and both are satisfied with each end of the deal. They give what they want, and they get they want.
Occasionally you may run into someone who simply doesn’t understand how this works, or who really doesn’t care. This leads into what we call unhealthy relationships, where the contract is basically dysfunctional. One person is providing more attention than they are getting back, basically, or they aren’t getting back the kind of attention they want. A great many times in these unbalanced relationships, one of the people involved is perfectly happy, because they are getting exactly what they want, and they don’t much care if their partner isn’t. These relationships can be short lived, if the partner being short changed is aware of what’s going on and decides to cut their losses, or they can last years, decades, or a lifetime, if the partner on the short end of it is determined to ‘make it work’. But these will not be happy, supportive, nurturing relationships… at least, not for both people involved. One of the people in such a relationship is going to be pretty miserable. The other person, on the other hand, will tend to be extremely resentful of anyone trying to introduce any changes into the established attention equation; he or she is perfectly happy with it, and in fact, regards this as being, basically, the agreed on contract, and anyone who tries to disrupt it, as being entirely in the wrong.
Having said all that, I’m now going to talk about (of all frickin’ things) blogging.
Blogging is an attention transaction, always. If it wasn’t, we’d do all this in private journals. Different blogs embody different types of contracts, and this basically breaks down into two different groups – the blogs that have comment threads on them, and the blogs that don’t.
As a general rule, if a blog has no comment threads, it’s being run by someone who is reasonably famous and successful, in some field or another, and they don’t want the hassle of having to deal with comment threads. This basically comes down to, they feel they get enough desirable attention already from other aspects of their lives; they aren’t looking for more from the people reading their blogs. More attention from their blog audience would be, by definition, un desirable attention; even if all they get is slobbering asskissers, they just don’t have the time to spend responding to these people at the level they’ll want. And, of course, there’s the simple fact that if you’re a person of any intelligence at all, and you post often enough to the Internet, you are going to enrage some dimwit out there, and that dimwit will, if they have the opportunity, cuss you out for committing the grievous sin of pissing them off. Many folks who already have sufficient self esteem feel they don’t need that crap, either. So… no comment threads. (And these guys STILL get flooded with email from their pathetic, attention desperate audiences. Ask Mark Evanier if you don’t believe me.)
Then there are all the blogs out there with comment threads. Like this one, and so so many more.
When you hit that little button that says ‘yes’ to enabling comment threads in the Blogger template, or however your particular blog does it, you are basically saying “I’m not getting enough attention in my life. I’m looking for some more.” We may not like to admit that, but, well, that’s what we’re doing. It’s why we blog. Our reluctance to cop to that, to own it, doesn’t make it any less true. And there’s nothing essentially wrong with that. Attention is the primary currency of human interaction; nearly all of us want more of it. The few who don’t, are not only getting enough of it already, they are generally getting too much of it… because not all attention is desirable, by any means.
That last point is something we bloggers tend to overlook, though. We post our stuff, we enable the comment threads, and we sit back and wait for comments. Essentially, we are saying “Pay attention to me!” But what we overlook is that, in our hearts, what we really want is desirable attention… but we aren’t ordering off a menu.
Set up a blog with comment threads, and you are essentially throwing open your doors to anyone who wants to come by and make their mark. And it’s important to realize that. We don’t get to pick and choose who shows up, or what they say. We can expect, and even demand, a certain basic level of civility, as a simple matter of the basic social contract… but we have no real right to expect mindless approbation, nor to get pissy, or hysterical, or insanely, cruelly vindictive, to those who provide us with attention that doesn’t quite match up to what we want, or even have come to expect, over the period that our blog has been established.
It’s important to understand that we ourselves set up the terms of the attention contract we are offering in the way we set up our blogs and our comment threads. Set up an entirely public blog and make no effort whatsoever to conceal the URL from undesirables, and you are opening yourself up to the whole wide world. There are blog providers who make it possible to set up ‘private’ blog pages – Live Journal and My Space do it, and for all I know, it’s possible with Blogger, too. Barring that, I myself had ‘private’ blogs on Angelfire for years; I set them up that way deliberately through the simple expedient of only telling a few trusted friends about the URL, and making an effort to keep out of search engines by asking those few trusted friends not to post links to the page.
However, most of us want at least the potential of getting desirable attention from new providers. So, we set up public blogs, beg our friends who have blogs for links and plugs, send out mass emails to other bloggers we barely know asking for the same, post to a lot of comment threads hoping people will like our comments and trace them back to our blogs, register with search engines… you know the drill, I’m sure.
Here’s the thing, though -- set up an entirely public blog and you are basically accepting that anyone can read it whenever they want to. Certainly you are hoping that anyone who reads it will respond to it in a fashion that you find gratifying -- most of us hope, in fact, that someone will read it and respond to it in a fashion that will transform our lives in a positive fashion, by offering us a book contract or our own TV show or newspaper column or something equally absurd. Nonetheless, again, and I must stress this -- we don’t get to order off a menu. You want widespread attention, you have to take the good with the bad… and there will be bad.
What’s even more important than this is the simple truth – just because we don’t like something someone posts to our comment threads, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the comment, or the commenter. Sometimes, we get a little bit spoiled.
Having said all that, and being someone who has a very public blog myself, another way we can write privacy clauses into our blogging attention contracts is through our comment threads. I’ve already noted that some bloggers simply don’t have comment threads – these people, basically, just don’t need or want the added attention. But those of us who do want it can still take one more little step if we want to – most of us have the capacity, if we choose, to moderate our comment threads.
There’s a price for this, naturally – it cuts down on the comments we receive. Or I presume it does, anyway. I only know for certain that when I myself come across a blog that I like and want to comment on, if the comment threads are moderated, it gives me pause, and sometimes, depending on my mood, it may even offend or infuriate me. When this happens, it’s pretty much my problem; it isn’t a personal rejection; the blogger most likely doesn’t even know me… yet, more often than not, my response will be to shrug and say “fine, bitch, you won’t let me put up a comment without looking at it first, you can just get along without Happy Little Me in your threads at all”.
Which, you know, they will, cheerfully.
I choose to moderate my comment threads because, while I cannot control who comes to my blog and reads my nonsense, I can and will control who gets to post their particular viewpoints to my little piece of the Internet. Anyone who has enough time to read a blog certainly has enough time to set one up, so controlling my comment threads isn’t denying anyone their freedom of expression… I’m simply saying “go get your OWN soapbox”. And I’d prefer not to moderate my comment threads, honestly… if I didn’t, maybe some of the hundreds of new visitors I get every time Kalinara is nice enough to link to one of my obnoxious entries would actually post something.
However, I’ve chosen to restrict access to my comment threads, knowing full well what it costs me in terms of the attention I blog in hopes of receiving, because, well, I have these troll-stalkers, see, and at least one of them has vowed to do everything in his power to screw up not only my blogging experience, but the blogging experience of everyone he knows that associates with me, and that guy’s comments not only upset me, they upset the love of my life, too, and I won’t be having any of that nonsense here.
Then, of course, there are the people who are specifically disinvited to hang out at a particular site. This is a tricky situation. Some sites do allow a webmaster to block access to specific people, but there are fairly easy ways around that. What it comes down to is, does one individual have a right to say to another individual that they can’t come onto their site? And if they do, does the other individual have a right to simply ignore them, if they can’t enforce the request somehow?
This is always going to be a highly subjective question, and one’s answer is largely doing to depend on what end of the transaction one finds oneself at. If you’re trying to keep your significant other’s obnoxious ex-spouse and his even more obnoxious current paramour off your site, well, you’re going to think they’re jerks for ignoring your polite request to fuck the fuck off. On the other hand, if John Rogers over at Kung Fu Monkey is essentially making it plain that he’d rather eat a cereal bowl full of broken light bulbs rather than see one more goddam comment from your scrofulous ass in his threads again, well, you may very well feel like, what the fuck, you’re a fan of the blog just like everyone else, it’s an open blog, the threads are unmoderated, and you’ll post whatever you want, motherfucker.
Of course, the difference in hypotheticals there is, in the first case, our hypothetical bloggers have very specifically told certain people that their congress is unwanted on the blogs in question, and that specific statement is being willfully ignored, because the people in question have about the equivalent emotional maturity between them of my 6 year old soon to be stepdaughter. (I grant you, she’s a pretty mature kid for her age, but still.) In the second, John Rogers hasn’t exactly said “get the fuck off my blog, fanboy”, as Aaron Hawkins once did oh so long ago right before he killed his dumb ass self; no, instead, Rogers is simply posting several hundred word rants about how badly I must have screwed up every relationship in my life if this is my so called sense of humor, and how he’s really really funny so he knows all that must be true. So, clearly on some level he’s enjoying my posts there, although he may not be consciously aware of it, and he’s keeping the lines of communication open.
Anyway. If there’s a point here, it’s that everything we do voluntarily that has to do with other people is an attention transaction, and that includes blogging, and responding to whatever responses our blogging brings us. If we set up our blogs and our comment threads a certain way, because we’re hoping for a certain type and level of attention, well, as with anything in life, we need to accept that we may not always get exactly what we want. And sometimes, that’s not something we should blame other people for.
Other times, of course, it is.
That is all. You can be about your business.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
First, read SuperFiancee's blog. It's awesome. She writes better than I do, she's funnier than I am, and her life is way more interesting than mine is. See why I love her? I get all this and don't have to do any work. You can too, if not quite as much, just by reading her blog. (Tammy says I'm biased, but all you guys know I'm not, and that this is an absolutely accurate representation of her blog.)
I also like Mike Norton's blog. I like the mix of fan geek stuff I'm interested in, like comics and HeroClix and movies and like that. But right now, he's got this goddam David Bowie post featuring a graphic of an eye and it's just freaking me out. And I wish he'd roll that sucker down off the page. But he won't. He won't. He lives to torment me.
Still, I enjoy his blog and y'all should too.
Old college pal Opus also has her own blog. She also writes better than I do, which I guess says something about my taste in women, and in our generally subliterate culture, would go far to explain why I've spent so much of my life in splendrid solitude. (Happy I am to no longer be in such a state.) So read Opus' blog. I command it.
My buddy Nate has a blog, too. He's always worth reading. Sometimes, as in this particular entry, he's frickin' brilliant. Check it out.
Tony Collett's blog is a heapin' helpin' o' geekiness, and coming from me, that's a high compliment indeed. I've never been able to figure out how to register on Tony's blog so I can leave comments, or I would, damn it, I would. But perhaps that's why he has it set up that way. (Only kidding.) Anyway. Go over there. Read his stuff. Leave a comment. Send me money. (Just in case I have the power of long distance mind control, or something.)
Mark Gibson's blog is a heapin' helpin' o' geekiness, and coming from me, that's a high compl... wait. I've done this already. Okay, it's... it's... it's not very French! Yeah! And he's got a frog. So, go read it. Or, just send me money. Wait, let's compromise. Read Mark's blog AND send me money. Yeah. I like that.
Mountain of Judgment. What can I say about Mountain of Judgement? It's an awfully cool blog, that's what. Comics, politics, and I asked them to link to me, and they did it! They don't update very often, though.
Okay. That's all the folks on de blog roll, over on your right. Most of the above blogs are run by personal friends; one (Mountain of Judgement) isn't, but, like I said, they linked to me, so they get a plug.
Now we're getting into blogs I recommend, that I read often if not everyday, even though most of them won't link to me, refuse to post about my blog or my magnificence in general, and rarely or never even acknowledge me when I leave comments on their blogs, sneering, arrogant snots that they are. They are haughty -- haughty, I say -- and fuck them eternally for it, but, still, these are all excellently written blogs, and many of them are hilariously funny, and quite informative, and you should read them every day, while bearing in mind that the writers of these blogs are foredoomed to hell for the grievous sin of not kissing my ass enough. And I am not jealous of them. I am NOT. Oh, go soak your head.
Anyway, here's Kung Fu Monkey. It's written by John Rogers, who has scripted some bad movies (CATWOMAN, THE CORE) and written a lot of TV scripts and is currently writing BLUE BEETLE for DC and who is a very very funny and even somewhat wise human being, in addition to being an utterly unrepentant smart ass. I enjoy his blog enormously, despite the occasional whiff of smarmy "Hi, I get to write geek shows on TV and geek movies and even a comic book, ain't I just the shit" attitude I get from his stuff, which generally makes me want to drown him in a toilet. He's well worth reading, but be warned: his comment threads drip with sycophancy, and he's become accustomed to having his ass kissed there. If you have any self respect, it's probably best to just lurk. But Rogers is very much worth reading; just not so much fun to try and talk to.
How To Write Screenplays. Badly. is just fucking hilarious. Go there. Now.
Talking Points Memo - Josh Marshall's indispensable poli-blog. I go here first for an overview of everything that has developed on the political scene overnight. Marshall and his co-bloggers write lucid, well reasoned, beautifully cogent and always well annotated material. Probably the leader in left wing blog journalists I'm aware of. Check him out.
Billmon - the best political blogger on the 'net right now, at least, as far as I can see. Not as comprehensive as Talking Points Memo, but what he does write is indispensable.
Unclaimed Territory - Glenn Greenwald has a very pedantic, slightly ponderous writing style, but he's a smart, savvy guy who gets linked to a lot by other serious poli-bloggers. He knows what he's talking about, and he himself links to a lot of different blogs all over the political spectrum. Again ::sigh:: he tends to treat me in his comment threads like I just took a crap in the middle of his broadloom, but his stuff is still always worth reading.
Clusterfuck Nation - James Howard Kunstler's blog, updated every Monday and a must read for me as soon as I get to work at the start of every week. Kunstler loathes everything about our American cash-mad consumerism-crazed commercially corrupted culture, and he spends a lot of time very visibly dry washing his hands together in impatient exultation about the imminent crash of industrial civilization, which he regards as inevitable because he's the Self Anointed Mad Prophet of the Peak Oil Apocalypse. He pretty obviously cannot wait for our debased, corrupt, diseased and disturbed social and economic structure to fall over dead and start rotting, and palpably looks forward to a future where everybody has to raise their own food in the dust to be found on their windowsills or some such shit. Despite all this, though, he's a terrific writer and makes some extremely cogent, if frightening, points. I have no real idea if his reasoning or his horrific predictions about our impending doom are correct, but on the other hand, it's not like I can afford to lay in a gigantic generator, an underground fuel tank, and ten years supply of hard rations for 5 people, either. So all I can do is enjoy his always articulate prose and hope to fuck he's dead wrong about nearly everything.
Rigorous Intuition - Jeff Wells' 'cautiously pessimistic' occult/conspiracy blog; the kind of thing my buddy the Late Great Jeff Webb would write, if he were a better writer and, you know, still alive. I love this blog, but will freely admit, much of the material here has profoundly fucked with my head. So if you enjoy your reality tunnel and don't want anyone setting off conceptual landmines between your ears, stay away from this blog. If you're curious about what might really be happening all around you, though, you could do worse than spend some time here. I especially recommend (if you truly want to be totally freaked out) the section of his link bar titled The Military-Occult Complex, ritual abuse/mind control, and "High Weirdness" . Not that everything else over there isn't worth reading, but the truly fucked up shit is all right there.
Okay. The following couple of blogs all have a kinda general writing style in common. All these guys are fabulous writers who basically take the same approach to blogging as Bruce Campbell does to Armies of Darkness. With a chainsaw. These guys are abusive bloggers; they don't type so much as they pummel the living crap out of their keyboards, leaving bruises and bloodsmears all over the Internet. They are vicious, they are mean, they are nasty, they are snide, they are spiteful and unpleasant and insulting and trollish and I wish to God I could write as well as any of them. But they're a lot of fun to read, even if they do ignore my damn comments, the fuckers. The hateful, hateful fuckers.
By Neddie Jingo! Brilliantly written stuff, usually about music, sometimes about politics, occasionally just about the fact that he needs a frickin' hip replacement and doesn't want to get one. Read it, don't read it, whatever.
The Poor Man - O, the legendary Master of Snark. If piranhas could type, they'd write this blog. Usually about politics, occasionally about really hilarious shit he found on U-tube, and often about kittens. Which I gather he actually eats. Raw. Still, funny stuff.
Alicublog - a guy named Roy Edroso flings shit like a monkey in a cage here, but he does it with brilliant style and panache and I wish to God I could write as well as he does. Occasionally he diverges from crucifying James Lileks, or various other right wing dimbulbs, and goes on and on and on about literature or fine art or fucking baseball or something else equally retarded and coma inducing, but, for the most part, he's nearly always worth the time.
Who is IOZ? IOZ is a gay libertarian blogger who is very nearly the equal of The Poor Man or Roy Edroso at alicublog for vicious, razor wielding snark. I like his blog and posted about half a dozen comments to it when I first found it; he ignored every single one except for noting that he was going to steal the phrase 'crypto-Victorian' from me. Theft is indeed the sincerest form of flattery when one is a writer, so I have to give him props for that. And for being a fabulous, funny, nasty as hell writer his damn self. Check him out. And if you get the chance, kick him in the nuts a few times for me.
James Wolcott writes for Vanity Fair, and blogs about politics, theater, and TV. What I've discovered is, if there's a good TV show out there, Wolcott hates it and will happily piss in my corn flakes about it at the first opportunity. But he's a fabulous writer, and certainly belongs amongst the snarkmeisters listed above. I go to his blog to use his extensive blog roll as much as for any other reason, since he doesn't update often.
There may be a few blogs I've left out -- I used to read Bobby Lightfoot regularly, for example, but no so much lately, since I pointed out to him that my post on the Alito confirmation was way funnier than some fucking thing on By Neddie Jingo! that he said was the funniest post of the year, and he agreed with me, but only in MY comment threads, which no one is going to read, and did not correct his heresy on HIS blog, the fucker -- and a few others I read regularly but don't recommend (like Ragnell's) because, you know, I only read them when I want to blog about utter stupidity and need fodder.
But, for the most part, this, and the WizKids site, are pretty much what I spend my time on every day between calls.
Now you know.
Monday, October 16, 2006
PLENTY OF SPOILERS!!!!!! Back off, man. I'm a scientist.
I bought five comics this week.
Back in college, my old buddy Slappy once asked me what order I'd read the monumental stacks of comics we each used to return from now sadly long defunct direct sales shop Dream Days with every week. I advised I generally read the ones I liked the most first. Which would mean, as he pointed out, that as I worked my way down the stack, I would inevitably be starting out with the best comics I'd bought and moving down to the worst.
"I do the opposite," he told me with his customary smugness. "That way, when I read my comics, they keep getting better and better."
Well, Slappy often made a lot of sense back then, before he started drinking. So ever since that conversation, I've followed his example, arranging any stack of new comics I may be reading in an order reflective of what I believe will be worst to best. Sometimes I'm wrong, but, the sad thing is, most of the time, I call it pretty accurately.
Another sad thing is, over the course of decades, the stacks have shrunk considerably. Once upon a time I brought home 10, 12 comics a week. These days I average 5... and one of those is a weekly.
Anyway, bearing that in mind, in the order I read them, here's this week's five:
MARVEL MILESTONES reprint of MARVEL PREMIERE #28, featuring the Legion of Monsters, and a couple of other reprints to be named in a paragraph or so.
Normally, I love these reprint things that both DC and Marvel put out there infrequently. The opportunity to revisit favorite moments and stories from the Silver Age usually hits me with a warm rush of nostalgia, and unless I already have the original issue in question, I generally snatch these things up without hesitation.
Sometimes, I should hesitate.
What moved some editor somewhere in Marvel’s food chain to okay this particular story for reprinting I will never know. It has Ghost Rider in it, and the GHOST RIDER movie is supposed to be coming to a theater near us… sometime soon, I don’t know when. So maybe somebody thought it would be a nice little piece of cross promotion. Or maybe some avid fan of Marvel’s infrequent Silver Age monster comics pushed this through as a ‘Halloween special’. Whatever the reasoning, it’s insufficient. I try very hard to convince my readers, especially Modern Age fans, that the Silver Age of comics was several orders of magnitude better than anything produced in the Modern Age, and putting a spotlight on historical turkeys like this one certainly doesn’t help me make that case.
Here’s the haps: written by Bill Mantlo, drawn by Frank Robbins, originally published in February of 1976, which almost certainly means sometime in summer or autumn of 1975. These were the waning days of the apex of Marvel’s Silver Age; Englehart and Gerber were wrapping up their time at the company and about to shove off for DC. Mantlo was the new kid on the block, the one who was paying his dues by taking the crap writing assignments nobody else much wanted – MARVEL TEAM UP, THE CHAMPIONS, and any fill in that came his way. Given that he’d previously written Ghost Rider in THE CHAMPIONS, maybe the whole “Legion of Monsters” concept was his. Or maybe somebody just thought he’d be a good writer for it, or maybe he just needed to make his rent that month.
At this point, Mantlo’s best work was still way ahead of him, and he was basically a very generic, deeply unexciting writer, churning out much the same pap month after month after month. His primary attractiveness to editors was doubtless his ability to get adequately written assignments in on a tight deadline; he certainly wasn’t setting anyone’s world on fire with his pulse pounding prose and if the Internet had existed back in the 1970s, nobody would have been paying much attention to anything Mantlo did. He was a plodder who made people like Len Wein look scintillating and Roy Thomas seem brilliantly innovative by comparison.
Frank Robbins is an enormously talented graphic artist, as anyone who has seen his artwork on the various newspaper adventure strips he drew before moving into superhero comics can amply attest. But his particular style is not well suited to the demands of superheroics, and his attempt to create a new visual vocabulary for the exaggerated physical feats depicted in that particular sub-genre were generally poorly conceived and badly executed. You can enjoy Robbins’ bizarrely unique superhero artwork if you go into it with the right mindset, but still, having him doing a book about putative monsters isn’t going to be the best use of his talents.
Given all that, expectations would have to be low for LEGION OF MONSTERS, and however low they may have been for anyone picking this thing up off a spinner rack back in 1975, they should have been lower.
Essentially, the plot runs as follows – Johnny Blaze is tooling around L.A. on his skull-cycle when suddenly a gigantic mountain rears up out of the ground for no sensible reason. He turns into Ghost Rider because he senses danger near, as was his wont back in those halcyon days. (I don’t know what halcyon means; it’s just a word that those of us who grew up reading Roy Thomas scripts tend to toss around a lot to sound important.) He rides up the mountain. Meanwhile, Morbius the Living Vampire has spotted Werewolf by Night prowling around on the rooftops and decided he’d make a tasty snack, because, you know, if you were Morbius the Living Vampire, you’d much rather try to drink the blood of a supernaturally powerful lycanthrope than some helpless co-ed. The Werewolf also stumbles across this suddenly manifesting mountain peak, so he ambles happily up it to, with Morbius gliding along behind him.
Now, so far this is stupid but not flat out moronic. However, next, the Man-Thing, who lives in a swamp in Florida for the love of jesus, happens to see the mountain too, and he goes slogging up it as well. Now, it’s always possible that Man-Thing happened to wander through a convenient magical portal, because the swamp he lives in is full of them, but then we’re still left to deal with the fact that Man-Thing tends not to voluntarily leave the swamp he lives in, because when he does, he dries up and dies. But never mind all that, let’s move on.
As all the various monsters are trooping up the sides of the mountain, suddenly, this golden guy appears. He’s all dressed in golden Roman armor and riding a glowing golden horse and he’s, like, you know, golden. “Welcome, my friends… I am he who is called The Starseed! I bid you welcome!”
At this point any sane person would have tossed the comic over his or her shoulder and put in a BUFFY DVD, but I am hardly that. Persevering, I discovered that the Starseed was a member of an ancient peaceful offshoot of humanity whose mountain had been stolen off Earth thousands of years before by aliens, and who had…
No, fuck it, you don’t care. It’s terrible. Not my Silver Age, dammit. Never mind.
This particular Marvel Milestone also reprints MARVEL TEAM UP #24, featuring Spider-Man and Brother Voodoo tackling somebody named Moondog, and a story from DRACULA LIVES #3, where Dracula defeats an ancient bloodsucker named Nimrod to become the new Lord of the Vampires. Which you gotta figure is a big relief to all the other Undead in the Marvel Universe, since who would you rather grovel to – Dracula, or some numbnuts named Nimrod?
All right. Casting that resolutely aside, we come to what I figured would the fourth worst comic out of the five I bought this week – The Atom #4.
Readers with a functional long term memory will recollect that I swore I was going to stop buying this title last issue. But then I heard from someone – I think it was Mike Norton – that Byrne would be off the book with issue 4, and since I figured it had to be Byrne who was smothering all of Gail Simone’s writing talent with his gigantic ass, I decided to give it one more shot. I’m happy I did; I sincerely doubt Byrne was equal to the task of turning the Atom’s rather prosaic Ivy Town into the DC Universe equivalent of Miskatonic University. With Byrne off the book, Simone’s dialogue has perked up considerably as well, and of course, the artwork is immeasurably better. Yeah, we’re still apparently mired in the same idiotic plotline regarding Order vs. Chaos with the New Atom caught in the middle, but at least it’s being written and drawn reasonably well.
However, there is a troubling sequence on page 7. The tubby Panda is being held at knifepoint by some nutball with a size change belt, who proceeds to advise said Panda had better do what the nutball wants, or the nutball will “show your pretty little girlfriend what I consider a good time”.
This is unacceptable. Leveling sexual threats against a female character simply because the guy making the threats is evil, and heterosexual? No way. It’s completely unfair. The nutball should be leveling his sexual threats at Panda, or, at least, at the Atom. I am so fucking sick of this shit, where male villains make sexual threats or commit sexual assaults and it’s always against female characters! Goddamn it! I won’t tolerate it any more! And from a female writer, too! I personally feel betrayed. Jesus Christ! From now on, any time a male character anywhere in comics makes a sick sexual reference in regard to a female character, or a female character is sexually assaulted, a male character better suffer exactly the same degrading, demeaning treatment, and it better be drawn exactly the same way, too! I’m keeping track of you bastards! You’ve been warned.
Wait. Here. Let me hit myself in the head with this hammer a few times –
Okay. Much better. Now that I’m at least slightly sane again, let’s move on to the third worst comic I bought this week, although, in point of fact, it was actually considerably worse than The Atom #4 –
Marvel Team Up #25. Yeah, I said I wasn’t buying this title any more either, but, hey, it’s the last issue, so I figured what the hell.
Okay. So there’s some ‘League of Losers’ in the future with Darkhawk and Dagger and Speedball and a robotic Reed Richards and I don’t know what the hell all else, and I don’t care, either. And… um… Titannus is loose and a whole bunch of superheroes show up to fight him. And She-Hulk got yanked in naked by Dr. Strange so she ends up wearing one of his spare smocks, which should by no means fit, but he’s magical, but, still, if he’s using magic to make it fit, he could have just whipped her up some Shulk togs. And Spider-Man is wearing his old red and blue costume, which I like, but is insane, since the new costume has body armor in it and can morph to look like the old one if he wants it to. Which he points out. And Titannus kills everyone, except he doesn’t, because Kirkman is stealing that gimmick Alan Moore used in “For The Man Who Has Everything” where Titannus is actually only having a delusion that he killed everyone. And that Skrull superhero Crusader shows up again, using the power ring that the gay guy got killed using last time, and he totally saves the day, proving that any straight dude, even a frickin’ alien, is worth twenty gay guys who try to be superheroes and then get impaled by an evil Iron Man on a couple dozen phallic surrogates.
So, yeah, it kinda blows, but at least there won’t be any more of it.
So then there’s the second best comic out of the five I bought this week, or at least, that’s what I figured when I sorted them -- 52 #22. Hey, only thirty weeks left!
See, if I weren’t crafty like ze fox, they’d be gettin me all excited with the whole concept that they’re bringing Super-Chief back. But… Super-Chief? Puh-LEEZE. Yeah, I read his origin in a 100 Page Super Spectacular when I was like 11 and thought he was cool and sure, those feelings are still with me, but… SUPER-CHIEF? There’s no way. For one thing they already have a new ethnic superhero with a magical totem. For another… SUPER-CHIEF???? Give me a break. Obviously, somehow or other this mystic totem is going to end up in Lex Luthor’s hands, and he’s going to use it to smack the entire JLA around while screaming “He was my SON!!!” like we saw in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #0. (Because, as this issue of 52 points out, Luthor’s metagene therapy, by cruel irony, won’t work on him.)
While I was reading this, I started to sit down and figure out just how many plotlines they have going on in this title:
There’s the Booster Gold destroying the timeline one. That’s vaguely interesting. No sign of it in this issue.
There’s the “Who Is Supernova” thing. Barely touched on in this issue. Maybe it’s Super-Chief. I dunno.
There’s the Question and Renee Montoya Go to Qurac and Meet Black Adam and Mighty Isis thing. No sign of that here, either.
There’s the ‘Adam Strange and two goobers rip off EARTHQUEST’ plotline, which I was fascinated by until it somehow absorbed Bobo… er, Lobo. Now I don’t care. In fact, I wish they’d all die. Except Adam. I like him okay.
There’s the ‘Lex Luthor is a total dick’ plotline… well, okay, the ‘Lex Luthor offers everyone in the world superpowers if they’ll suck his dick’ plotline. A lot of that in this one.
There’s the ‘Steel hates Lex Luthor and tries to foil his nefarious schemes’ plot, which we got some of in this one, too.
Then there’s this weird thing with Will Magnus being chased around by Men In Black and some killer robots. Don’t have any idea what’s going on there. But if it eventually leads to a regular METAL MEN series again, written by someone I can tolerate, I’m on board.
I can’t imagine we’re going to see Batwoman again. And I hope to god that whole thing where Cassie is trying to resurrect Conner is over. I see she’s regained her senses in the current TEEN T ITANS book, so I guess this was just a thing she had to work through. I’d have a lot more respect for it if Peter David hadn’t done the exact same plot ten years ago with Rick Jones and Marlo in HULK.
Ralph Dibney becomes Dr. Fate – I was kind of interested in that. I hope they get back to it.
I suppose there were more plots, but I can’t remember them right now.
Anyway, I’m still enjoying 52, it’s just that this was one of the more lackluster issues for me.
Finally, my Number 1 comic book that I bought this week --
First, you just gotta deal with the John Romita Jr. art. Someone at Marvel thinks he can draw; I disagree, but I don’t sign any paychecks there. So, you just gotta deal with it. It’s okay; it doesn’t actively obscure what’s going on, or anything…
The Gaiman script… while I’m reading this, I keep thinking “gee, that’s familiar… hmmm, I’ve seen that concept before… say, that’s right out of Zelazney.” You know, it’s like when you’re reading any issue of ASTRO CITY and you know anything at all about superhero comics. But Gaiman, at least, steals his ideas from mythology and literature (much like Zelazney, in fact) and if it all does seem to be treading some well worn paths for him, still, it’s an interesting plotline overall, and he has managed to surprise me on occasion.
With this particular issue, we’re finally seeing some real revelations and I guess the plot is about to actually get exciting, instead of just kinda sorta cool and ‘hey, what the hell is going on here’. I wish Romita wasn’t insisting on putting all the male Eternals in these dopey looking thigh high boots, which I’m pretty sure Kirby didn’t dress them in, but, as I say, the art is very much secondary to the story here.
I do more or less like the idea of Sprite being behind the whole mess with everyone losing their memories and nobody in the world remembering the Eternals, just because he’s pissed off at the fact that he’s going to be a small child until the end of time and nobody will ever take him seriously. Seems like I saw that bit first in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, but Gaiman is doing fun things with it. I’m not sure I’m willing to believe that he did it all so he can be human and age normally; that seems rather too much like all the immortals in the HIGHLANDER movies killing each other for millennia just so the eventual winner can lose his immortality, grow old and die. I mean, that’s always seemed pretty stupid to me. Still, I suppose if I’d been 11 years old for a few million years, I might be a little nuts, too.
Hopefully, next issue, Makkari stops pissing and moaning and we get to see a little asskicking. It would be long overdue.
And that’s the five comics I read THIS week.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
In a game whose final four minutes or so was one seemingly endless cardiac event for me, the Bucs finally managed to squeak out a victory. Now, if they can simply win every single one of the remaining 11 games in this season, they still have a shot at the play offs.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Okay, here we go:
I told SuperFiancee that she should write the vacation entry on her blog and everyone would be happier, because she'd do a much better job of it than I will. But she disagrees with me and I am but her slave of love, soooooo...
Above, you see Super Adorable Kid AKA The Baby (she'll always be The Baby to us, although, you know, she's turning 7 in January and really isn't a baby anymore) who, for once in her life, doesn't seem thrilled to be having her picture taken. Holding her is SuperFiancee, of course, and in the background, Super Dependable Teen, neither of whom are ever thrilled to have their pictures taken, despite the fact that both are very very lovely specimens of femininity indeed. This was Saturday, and we were at the beach. Don't ask me which beach, I don't know. I just got in the car when I was told to and went where they drove me.
Okay. So I surprised myself by having a really good time at the beach. I'd never been to an actual ocean beach before and I was startled to discover that it really is very different from a beach at a lake... the whole sense of the thing is much grander, and the surf is much bigger and more powerful, and I had a really fabulous time wading into it with the two older Super Kids and letting it pound against me. I even got to carry The Baby out into it, once we convinced her she'd be okay, and she had a great time, too.
Speaking of The Baby, here she is brandishing a plastic shovel and wearing my shirt! I only set it down for a second. But it was breezy and she was a little chilly. Looks better on her than it ever did on me, anyway. In the background are her two older sisters, but you can't see them that well. Which is your loss.
While we were there I got a frankly insane amount of sunburn, because it was cloudy and I really didn't feel like putting on suntan lotion after The Baby stole my shirt and I figured it would be okay . Bad mistake. Ouchie.
Also while we were at the beach, I noticed an astonishing lack of seagulls and commented on it to my mother, who silently handed me a potato chip and then abjured me to toss it outward onto the sand. I did, and HOLY FUCK! INSTANT BIRDS! There were many more than this picture indicates. Had Tippi Hedren appeared alongside them, I'd have run screaming for cover.
Then, after the beach, we drove to St. Augustine, where Super Drama Teen lounged stunningly against this fountain with a big fat ponytailed guy in the background. Wait! Could that be Our Hero, Highlander? Alas, it is. That should dispell any lingering sexual fantasies all the feminist fangirls who keep shuttling over to this blog from When Fangirls Attack have doubtless been having about me, and it's just as well, because I'm very very taken, and happy to be so, too.
While we were in St. Augustine, we saw the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse In America! Super Adorable Kid wanted to find some way inside it so she could romp about, but we felt the ancient structure most likely would not well withstand the sudden acceleration of entropy that The Baby can inflict on her surrounding environment when she's a mind to. So we firmly nixed that plan.
And yes, there's big fat Highlander again, with Super Drama Teen, Super Dependable Teen, and Super Adorable Kid on one side, and The Mother of Highlander and her husband Carl on the other side. They're grinning like loons, but nobody who voluntarily hangs around with me for extended periods can accurately be described as sane.
Also at St. Augustine there was this really cool old graveyard, which I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed to find entirely zombie free. I don't know why I expected zombies, but somehow, it's always seemed to me that Florida and the living dead should just go hand in hand. Instead of rotting corpses, though, you get to look at Super Adorable Kid again. It's a win/win all the way around.
Then there was this fort. It's, like, historical or something. I don't know. I was wearing these sandals for the first time and they were really killing my feet, so I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention.
That was all on Saturday. Sunday was this big family party and we watched the Bucs lose again, but not by much, and if Reggie Bush hadn't had that total fluke kick off return, then... well, never mind. Monday, though, we all went HERE --
--where the beautiful SuperFiancee and I posed in front of some parrots, who were doubtless wondering "what kind of mind control powers does that fat geek have, that he's got a hot babe like that putting her arm around him?"
Then, inside the park, there were some crocodiles. Also Florida panthers, whom we caught doing the horizontal bop together (we took pictures, but they didn't come out, which is just as well, because my readers probably aren't ready for panther porn). Also llamas, and bears, and snakes, and pot bellied pigs lying in their own filth, and a couple of cool trips on glass bottomed boats.
Oh, yeah, and then the kids decided to stick their arms in an alligator's mouth. It was educational, so I just let them.
So, that's Saturday and Monday. We drove down all day Thursday, drove back all day Tuesday. Sunday was the Bucs game. Friday we just lazed around and didn't do much... visited with various members of my family, played some Magic, ate like hogs (my mom made this fabulous glazed ham). What other highlights am I failing to recount? Well, let's see -- okay. My cousin Christian walked into my mom's living room and found me and SuperFiancee and my nephew Kolton sitting around playing Magic. He said "You guys play this?" We admitted to the vice. He bolted out. Twenty minutes later, he was back, with a stack of Third Edition Magic Starter sets (the kind with two 60 card starter decks in them, a rule book, a little velvet bag, and a bunch of glass beads meant for counting life points with) and two Ice Age starter decks. "Here," he said, "we've had these laying around the house for years." Score! My cousin Christian is deeply weird, but I will now have to remember him in my will just for that.
Then, later on, I found out my brother Paul, who doesn't even play Magic, had intercepted Christian outside and stolen -- STOLEN!!! -- one of the Starter sets and a pack of Ice Age, for some fucking housemate of his I've never even met. NO WAY!!! So I offered him my JLA/Avengers set for them, and he coughed them up immediately. So my first stop the day after we got back was Great Escape, where I bought another JLA/Avengers set and sent Paul my old one. But first I pulled the covers off four old crappy comics (a couple of BATMAN ANNUALS and two DEATHBLOW BY-BLOW issues) and slipped them on over the JLA/Avengers covers, just to give Paul a cardiac event when he opened the envelope. Steal MY goddam Magic cards, would he...?
Oh, yeah, we had a really good time playing with my newest nephew, Paul's 18 month old son, Baby Ben. And I'm doubtless leaving out more stuff... I mean, there was a campfire and we made s'mores, too, and my cousin Heather was there with her new husband, and... yeah, I'm leaving a lot of stuff out... oh, I totally kicked ass at Scene It Monday night after we got back from Silver Springs, too... but SuperFiancee will have to fill you in on all that stuff, and post pictures of Baby Ben, too.